Interactions on Social Media – Think Before You Write

Interactions on social media – Think before you write

 “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me…”

Or can they?

A mere surfing session on social media, looking through posts made by various people and pages and reading the comments made on them is quite an eye opener.

Be it a post about a serious, argumentative topic or a comedy sketch that would generally be considered a stress reliever in real life, one would expect the threads in the comment section engaging in healthy debate or enjoying the humour. Scrolling through the actual comments though takes one on a rough ride. It has become common to see harsh remarks that are, at times, abusive consisting of personal attacks and, at other times, throw baseless criticism and demean those who hold a different opinion.

One just has to wonder what exactly is the matter with such people who may be quite soft spoken and polite in their real life…

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So what is wrong?

When we are presented with a subject, we tend to form an opinion about it and feel the need to express our thoughts. After all, if something is out there for the public to comment on, any viewer has a right to present their stance. So why does expressing an opinion freely on social media come across as obnoxious so frequently? In fact, the opinion or the person holding those views is not the problem, the presentation is. The manner in which a point of view is presented is often blunt or tactless, and could even discredit the idea itself.

Why does that happen?

Impulsiveness. It causes one to make a remark even before they can think it through and know what they actually mean by it, or whether it is even appropriate in the circumstances. There is a natural tendency to react to social media posts instead of responding to them after due thought. If you like something, you would want to immediately show your positive reaction. On the other hand, the impulse of sharing negative feelings or feedback can cause some serious damage not only to the person or idea being criticized but also to the credibility of the author themselves. Writing down a hateful comment or just something that one believes would come across as “funny” does not take more than a minute, but the effect that it has can be quite long lasting.

What impact can this have on people?

A careless and impulsive remark can cause people to re-evaluate the entire worth of their work or opinion. Apart from the distress this might cause, baseless or useless criticism could destroy the growth of an idea that could have been developed into an efficient or productive process otherwise. Negative and harsh remarks may give birth to confusion and to a false belief of worthlessness, therefore, eventually causing loss of self-confidence.

From the perspective of the person writing such a comment, any criticism that is ill-informed can cause the credibility of that person to take a huge blow, much similar to “the boy who cried wolf”.

So how does one express disagreement or displeasure online?

Before responding to something that a person disagrees with, one should evaluate what is at stake. If it is an unimportant matter that has been stated by a personal acquaintance then the relationship with that person is more important than an unpleasant disagreement or argument. Although, if some information may do more harm than good, such as fake news, correcting the wrong done by pointing out the error should be more important than criticising the person who shared it in the first place.

The key to any strong structure is proper construction, not destruction, and our society should strive to build a happy, supportive and prosperous environment everywhere, including social media, for healthy ideas and opinions to flourish.

Ms. Areeba Ahmad is a student of Architecture at NED University, Karachi. She has been an editor for her college magazine and also directed various plays and skits in school and college. She believes “Art is a form of leisure and often exhibits it on her writings”.

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Areeba Ahmad

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